Concerns raised about hospital, email privacy at Murray County meetings

SLAYTON – A couple of concerned citizens took the floor during the open forum at the Murray County Board’s regular meeting Tuesday morning.

Cal Wurpts, former Slayton mayor, asked the board to consider two questions for its Murray County Medical Center Board meeting later in the afternoon. Wurpts wanted to know what the board proposed to do to make sure the hospital management contract, set to expire May 1, is not auto-renewed and what steps are being considered to bring Avera in as a possible manager. Commissioner Bob Moline said that the questions would be brought before the medical center board.

Trish Grieme also addressed the county commissioners about a privacy concern and an email she had sent. She had written the board to show her interest in being on the hospital board to represent others in the community who feel as if their voices are not being heard.

“I have sent emails to all the county commissioners with questions concerning being on the hospital board,” Grieme said. She thanked commissioners Moline and Gerald Magnus for getting back to her.

“My concern is the message I got back from a county commissioner’s wife who had hit reply, and it came to me instead of Bob Moline, who it was intended for,” Grieme said. “I know with hospital issues there is a privacy act (HIPPA), which makes me think commissioners should use private emails rather than family ones. I know I would never reply to my husband’s business emails, nor do I even see them.”

Grieme handed out a printed copy of the email she received from Jane Giese, wife of county commissioner John Giese, that read: “Happy Easter Bob & Family, God forbid that Trish gets on the hospital board, right? She is a front leader for Dan’s (Woldt, former MCMC PA) group and put the junk on fb (Facebook) against the hospital, she would be detrimental to the whole thing, don’t you think? That is just plain craziness……Jane.”

“Jane Giese is entitled to her opinion of me,” Grieme said. “Just as I am entitled to my opinion of her. However, isn’t there an issue of trust when you email a county commissioner? A lot of the community has lost trust in our commissioners, and this is making me question the trust issue even further.”

Grieme also denied being a “front leader for Dan’s group” and said that “Dan’s lawsuit will take care of itself, and I have rarely mentioned his name or anything about him.”

Concerning the Facebook posts on the page “Taking Back MCMC,” Grieme said, “Yes, I started the Facebook page and became a voice for others who felt like they could not be public with their views. I’ve posted things that I agree with and things I don’t agree with because that’s what you do when you are a voice. Kind of like what a county commissioner is supposed to do.” Moline thanked Grieme for her comments.

Later that afternoon, the Murray County Medical Center Board met in front of a packed house. Renee Logan, MCMC CFO, presented a financial report to the board, saying that inpatient visits are down.

“Inpatient remains low for admissions,” Logan said, “and the clinic is down from last year.”

New interim CEO John Osse was present for his first board meeting to give an administrative report.

“We have implemented exit interviews,” Osse said. They had been requested at previous meetings because they were not conducted in the past. “I will review and discuss (interview) results with department managers. We are also considering an employee survey and a patient satisfaction survey.”

Even though Osse has only been on the job for roughly three weeks, he has listened to a lot of concerns and spoken with many hospital employees.

“I’m in the process of doing my assessment and putting together an action plan,” Osse said. “I have scheduled six open meetings with staff. Staff has (currently) been coming in one at a time, and I’m pleased to meet with them.”

Osse and the board also addressed questions raised by Wurpts at the earlier county board meeting. Osse confirmed that the contract with Sanford will auto-renew on May 1.

“It’s the way it’s written, and it’s what will happen,” said Osse.

Concerning the switch from Sanford to Avera, Moline said that the board “would like to have a meeting to discuss Avera” before any decision were made.

“I have not seen a breach in the contract,” Osse said as he questioned being able to leave Sanford.

The board agreed to hold an open strategy meeting from 7-10 a.m. on April 30, at the courthouse.

At the end of the meeting, Moline invited Wurpts to address the board (per Wurpts’ request) as a representative for “several hundred Murray County citizens and MCMC patrons.” Wurpts read from a written statement that was handed to each board member and raised concerns about “the future vitality and financial stability of MCMC.” Wurpts said that the concern was about the loss of four providers who left MCMC because of a negative working environment.

“There are also a number of nurses and other medical staff who have left… these people are, for the most part, still residing here in Slayton or Murray County, and their children are still attending our schools,” he said.

Wurpts said that when the providers left, many MCMC patients are followed their providers for care. With the patients going elsewhere, there is also a loss of local business.

“We feel that it is critical to the future of MCMC to attempt to bring the four providers and with them their patients, back,” he said.

Wurpts went on to explain that the four providers now work at Avera, and that the best way to accomplish their goal would be to “sever the current management agreement with Sanford and negotiate a new management agreement with Avera.”

Wurpts closed with “Please consider this request carefully and do what is best for the long-term future of MCMC.”